Villainizing Indo-Israel Academic Collaborations is Not Only Unnecessary, It Is Simply Wrong: A Rebuttal

Indo-Israel collaboration extends to water management, computer science, agri-tech, aerospace and many other important fields.

David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, had said: “On the security front, we are those who attacked and who are on the defensive. But in the political field, we are the attackers and Arabs are those defending themselves”. 

The statement is rather true whenever the Israel-Palestine issue is discussed. This article deals with a similar situation which attempts to rebut an article by Marcy Newman, Indian Institutes Working With Israeli Counterparts Also Help Oppress Palestine, published in The Wire. 

Quite simply, correlation does not imply causation, and it is rather ironic that as an academic, instead of taking a nuanced stance, Ms Newman has gone all guns blazing to write an anti-Semitic piece.

It is truly appreciable that Ms Newman teaches in dangerous circumstances in the areas of Nablus (Area A), fully under Palestinian government’s control, and Abu Dis (Area C), under Israeli control as per Oslo Accords II. She undoubtedly addresses some major issues, however, driven by emotion, she disdains historical perspective and ground realities. 

By mentioning ‘Israel occupied West Bank’, she overlooks history from the lens of politics and security. The refugees of Palestine are not a deliberate plan of Israel which is surrounded by Arab enemies. The Palestinians were offered practically 100% of the territory of Gaza and the West Bank, with territorial swaps and the partition of Jerusalem, but they refused to give up on the ‘idea of return’ i.e. the end of Israel. This national illusion is the cause of their continued plight. 

International media tends to show news from a humanitarian perspective however, here is an astonishing fact on why Israeli military ‘invades’ the houses in those areas, which Ms Newman must know: the average age of the new terrorists is 16 to 20, compared with 23 to 27 in earlier periods. The participation of women, mostly young has also increased substantially. Apart from the intelligence reports on it, media also covered how Hamas uses residential areas, schools and hospitals as shelters and launching grounds for their rockets. 

Israel, referred to as a ‘Startup Nation’ and ‘Silicon Wadi’, is a fast-developing country after opening its markets post socialism; it shouldn’t be astonishing if it lures international students to become an academic hub for multicultural research ideas. Ms Newman could have seen Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE)’s project as embracing the plurality of ideas and internationalization of higher education which further tends to propagate democracy. However, her views become narrower and derogatory towards scholars who are collaborating to expand Israel’s academic horizon. 

A Tel Aviv University (TAU) admissions’ official states “I will not deny that my goal is to “lure” international students, because the thirst for knowledge and research has no national label. As a student of history and culture, I learned nothing if not the fact that diversity creates prosperity. International students gathering in Israeli institutions should not be symbolized as an act of alleged espionage, but as a sign of hope for this world, that we can build bridges instead of destroying them.” 

Technion Institute, ranked 7th for producing CEOs of American tech companies and 18th in the field of computer science, has played a leading role in fostering Israel’s “Start-Up Nation” economy apart from supporting weapon manufacturing. Ms Newman rather distastefully snubs the idea that every country has a defence budget and the right to manufacture/purchase their weapons/ army equipment, unlike Hamas which gets its funding through Iran’s IRGC to attack Israel. 

The TAU, responsible for creating the Dahiya Doctrine, is the same institute where the Arab student population rose to 78% in 7 years. The CHE even developed a five-year plan, to increase the underrepresented Bedouin community’s enrolment rates by 75%. The Dahiya Doctrine that killed many Lebanese was the IDF’s response to Hezbollah’s attacks, which she missed in her incautious piece. 

We wonder if she knows the technological progress of both Israel and India when she mentions Israel’s collaboration with IITs in suspicion; apparently while mentioning the WhatsApp hacking incident, she doesn’t acknowledge Indo-Israel collaborations in water management, computer science, agri-tech, aerospace and other important fields that enable both countries to strive for resource-independence through technology. 

In biotechnology and medical sciences, Israel and India are collaborating to develop new vaccines and medicines, not to forget a few Israeli organizations are working to provide medical facilities in Palestine where amenities are severely lacking. If an academician ignores such facts, discussing what India is doing in Kashmir would need a separate article hence pointless to rebut the statement that India is modelling Israel’s action in Kashmir.

Ms Newman also suggests following the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI)’s footsteps in collaborating with institutes that covertly create terrorists. Palestinian institutes are known for propagating Islamic political ideology, sheltering Hamas and providing laboratories for their weapons. The Hamas infilters young minds in the Hebron University and other institutes in Palestine long suspected of producing islamist militants

Ms Newman should read the Hamas Charter before she seems to favour the organization in her another article; Hamas explicitly states Palestine as an Islamic Waqf without recognizing Israel as a separate state. It does not affiliate to the idea of peace agreements as they do not consider international organizations capable enough of resolving the issue. Hence, her appreciation of JMI’s collaboration with Hamas’ sheltering universities elusively shows her doubt in the idea of peace negotiations. 

It is also intellectually dishonest to draw a parallel between Israel’s ‘demographic bomb’ policies and India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA is merely an amendment to hasten the process of offering citizenship to persecuted minority communities including Sikhs, Christians who fled Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2014. 

The normal process of naturalization of refugees including Muslims from any part of the world still applies and there have been no amendments made to that whatsoever. Regarding her point on Indian students accessing facilities at Ben Gurion University and their connections with Israel, either she doesn’t understand the threats in India’s neighbourhood or wilfully ignores them. 

The Wire, which cared to publish such a biased piece, didn’t give space to a rejoinder by Dr Khinvraj Jangid, Associate Professor & Director, Jindal Centre for Israel Studies at the O.P. Jindal Global University, India. 

He says: “It is legit as a symbolic protest but, academically speaking, it serves no purpose when fathoming the intricate nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indian academia is diverse. Those who academically boycott or collaborate have equally legitimate points of view. 

It is unfair to assume that they are less academic, morally committed or worse, paid-off, as Newman alludes. Her view undermines the independent and critical minds of the Indian students who go to Israel as a result of collaborations. They are not gullible and do not return as the supporters of Israel.”

Ms. Newman fails to understand India’s plurality and democracy when she questions Indian universities partnering with Israeli ones. While she is empathetic towards one religious community, she ignores the tumultuous nature of the persecution of both the Jewish and the Hindu communities. 

It is important to realize that human rights apply on both sides; their selective application breeds dishonesty and skewed narratives, thereby causing further disharmony among communities instead of bridging them. 

Sugandh Priya Ojha

Sugandh Priya Ojha is the co-founder of a political consultancy startup. She is also an IR professional and a polyglot with interest and experience in Political Analysis, Culture, International Security and Climate Governance.

Dr Sameer Guduru

Dr Sameer Guduru is an Associate Fellow, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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